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Man arrested in alleged sales of pictures, not TVs, on eBay



By Admin Hobbs, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Friday, October 17, 2003


WELLINGTON -- A budding young entrepreneur went on eBay in March, promising savvy television shoppers a bundle in savings on a large-screen "plasma high definition picture," the sheriff's office said.


And that is just what 19-year-old Jeffrey Roberts of Wellingtondelivered. A picture -- of a big-screen plasma television. Deputies said at least four eBay shoppers from coast to coast took the bait, netting Roberts a total of $11,726.


But authorities were not amused, nor were they satisfied that Roberts met the legal terms of the offer by mailing buyers a "picture." Deputies arrested Roberts, of 12064 Suellen Circle, Wednesday and charged him with grand theft. He was released from the Palm Beach County Jail Wednesday on $3,000 bond and is set to appear in court Nov. 21.


"Most people thought, 'Wow! What a deal,' " said Detective Pete Palenzuela of the sheriff's business crimes unit. "The victims would send him a personal check... but instead of a television, he would FedEx them a small envelope with a picture of a television inside."


The victims hailed from California, Illinois, Georgia and Connecticut, and paid anywhere from $800 to $5,100 for what they believed were high-definition plasma televisions with screens ranging from 50 to 61 inches, Palenzuela said. Such cutting-edge technology sets can cost between $8,000 and $10,000 in retail stores.


Roberts' justification didn't hold up with authorities. First, he advertised in the popular online auction company's electronics section. And although the headings described the item as a "picture," the high-tech details that were included made it clear the seller was describing a television, Palenzuela said.


Sang Park of Palatine, Ill., paid $3,701, thinking he had bought a 50-inch Panasonic.


Park still has the computer print-out photograph that he received instead.


"I said, 'You gotta be kidding' " said Park, 32, a dentist. "I e-mailed him back and he said, 'That's the item you were bidding on.' "


Deputies tracked down Roberts through complaints filed by Park and others with the Internet Fraud Complaint Center. But Roberts' arrest offers little solace to Park.


"After a while he basically sent me an e-mail saying that he went fishing and lost his cellphone, so there's no way to get ahold of him," Park said. "I want my money back."



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